Serpents? On MY dirigible???

January 14, 2010 at 11:45 am (Stories online)

…It’s more likely than you’d think.

The grand debut of Professora Lundqvist, Colonel Dieterich, and dear, dear Charles is now up at Beneath Ceaseless Skies! “A Serpent in the Gears” was such a fun story to write, beginning to end, and I loved every part of it. In fact, I love this universe and want to have its steampunk babies write much more in it someday.

Here’s an excerpt. Go and read; I’ve had so much fun with this, and I hope you enjoy it too.

The captain pointed to a lens behind the helmsman. A gray cliff face, cut into deep letters of ten different scripts, receded from our view. “We’ve just passed the graven warning.”

I peered at the bow lenses, trying to get a better look at the warning itself. When I was a child, I’d heard stories (all disdained by my teachers) that the warning had been inscribed into the side of the mountains by an automaton the size of a house, etching the words with a gaze of fire. When I was older, my age-mates and I played at being the team engineered solely for the job of incising those letters, hanging from convenient walls and making what we thought were appropriate rock-shattering noises to match. After such tales, small wonder that my first view of the warning, some twenty years ago, had been so disappointing. Yet I could still recite by heart its prohibition against entering the valley.

The lenses, however, showed no sign of it. Instead, most displayed the same sight: a confection like matching wedding cakes on the mountainsides flanking the pass, the consequences for those who defied the graven warning. Thousands of snub spouts pointed towards us, ranging from full cannon-bore to rifle-bore, the latter too small to see even with the ship’s lenses. My eyes itched to adjust, and I felt a pang just under the straps of my andropter harness, where most men had hearts.


  1. auntielou said,

    Great fun!

    • mlronald said,

      Thank you!

  2. Random said,

    Alright, it’s here! The moment I promised, your picture with an eye patch (raw and untouched).

    • mlronald said,

      Ha! Wonderful! Thanks, and it was great to meet you!


  3. Shira said,

    Finally got to read it 🙂 Excellent!

    • mlronald said,

      Thank you! It’s so silly, and yet I love it so.

  4. Timothy said,

    I read your story on BCS and was so impressed that I tracked you down here. Incredible! Your characterizations remind me of Robin Hobb at her best. Will there be more of Charles in the future?

    • mlronald said,

      Thank you so much! I hope to write more about Charles and company, and I’ve been working out more of the world over the last few months. At least when the current revision hasn’t been eating my brain. We’ll see whether I can pull it together into a coherent story.

  5. Jim Sullivan said,


    I’ve just encountered The Beneath Ceaseless Skies website. I’d like to tell you much I enjoyed “A Serpent in the Gears”. It was a lot of fun.

    Timothy, up above has it right. Reminiscent of Robin Hobb, when she’s doing things right.

    • mlronald said,

      Thank you! That’s quite a compliment. I’m hoping to finish more set in that universe, and with any luck it’ll find a home.

  6. Layla said,

    Hi! I just read this story and had to follow the link to your blog to let you know how much I enjoyed it. 🙂 The only problem is that I loved the characters so much that I want more of them, and I’m delighted to see above that you’re thinking about writing more in this universe!

    • mlronald said,

      Not just thinking — I’ve got a couple more short stories (one of which I’ve recently sold!) set in the same universe. Different characters, though, but that’s because I’m hoping to write something longer with Charles, Dieterich, and the Professora.

      And thank you! I loved these characters, and I’m so glad that other people like them too.

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